Human beings are, for the most part, social creatures. We are also highly adaptable and able to learn new behaviors quickly.
Part of what allows us to absorb and adapt is our ability to learn from others and from the observations recorded in our collective history. This is the social nature of our existence. If we think about it, by relying solely on our personal experiences to learn and advance from, we would have very little in the way of complex scientific theories. Almost all of our advanced studies are built upon the lessons learned and passed along from our predecessors.
The name for this type of behavior is observational learning, and it has been studied by psychologists and learning theorists for decades. This kind of learning, which can also be thought of as social learning, involves a model who demonstrates an activity and an observer who witnesses it. The activity being modeled can be first-hand or it can be symbolic, as in books and other recorded instruction. The point is that we are given an opportunity to learn from the experience of others and to integrate that knowledge into our own experience.
Much of the training that happens in the workplace is this kind of observational training. It also used to be called “on the job training” or OJT. Today, roughly two thirds of all training in the workplace is observational or OJT-type training – and this number is actually growing. As companies cut back on instructor-led or classroom training, more employees find themselves learning from subject matter experts within their peer groups or from other informal sources.
But this isn’t such a bad thing – remember, we are social learners and are wired to incorporate the skills of those who we observe performing these tasks. But the problem now becomes; how do we track and record this informal and observational knowledge transfer?
Luckily, there are tools that were designed for just this purpose. TOPYX® is a Social Learning Management System (LMS) that can maintain records and a complete accounting of this type of training. In addition, TOPYX can allow both the experts (models), and the learners (observers) to track their skills throughout the learning process. In this way, the Social LMS becomes a virtual classroom and also acts as a repository for our collected knowledge.
Training and learning will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our culture and society. Fortunately, we as humans are up to the task. We will continue to be social learners and will acquire skills from whatever sources are available to us. In the corporate environment, tools such as TOPYX will allow us to track our progress and measure our increasing skills.
To find out more about TOPYX and how it can help your organization, get a personal LMS demo and find out how a social learning management system can help you.
Jeffrey A. Roth
Vice President, Marketing and Communications